Earlier this week, I had the honour of attending the SLA (Special Library Association – for the non-librarian 3 Geeks crowd) Annual Conference in Chicago.  As one of the competitive intelligence guest Geeks, it should come as no surprise that I mostly spent my time at the CI Division sessions.  Each CI session was was better than the last. Topics ranged from Cross Cultural CI (how to get information, collaborate, and understand various cultures when doing CI) to the Evolving Role of CI in Law Firms (a session I would imagine would be of particular interest to the 3 Geeks subscribers).  Sessional information, including presentations, will be available here in the next few weeks.

In the mean time, I wanted to share a few highlights in no particular order:

·    Special librarianship is alive and well. We keep hearing about layoffs, decreasing budgets, shrinking floor space and such across libraries.  That all may be well and true, BUT the rallying power of librarians is astounding.  New titles are popping up, new roles are being created, and librarians are leading that change. The energy is amazing.

·    Big data is coming to a library/information centre/shop near you.  Get in front of it.  Start thinking about how you can help your clients manage and understand their data.  We need to think beyond taxonomy, even beyond knowledge management, to something tangible and actionable.  Internal and external data are the keys to AFAs, increased productivity, and competitive advantage.  Harnessing big data will be the differentiator for law firms in the next several years.  Librarians with their information knowhow need to be involved in this process in firms.

·    Get embedded.  We’ve heard it before and it is starting to stick.  Building relationships from the inside is central to garnering trust, and being able to provide proactive information. Even if your firm doesn’t operate on an embedded basis, keep your pjs nearby, and invite yourself over to the slumber party when the opportunity presents.  Figuratively, of course.
·    Librarians can do CI and can do it VERY well.  Wednesday morning, the last day of the conference, at 8 a.m. no less (following the famous IT Division Dow Jones Sponsored Dance Party), Michel Bernaiche of Aurora WDC and Chairman of the Board at SCIP and Fred Wergeles, a SCIP fellow, presented a workshop type session on analytical tools that deliver value.  The librarians/attendees learned a couple of new tools for analysis, but the real learning came when the participants blew the panelists away with their ability to digest, synthesize and pull out the actionable tidbits of information – i.e. intelligence.  Don’t be afraid of doing CI, embrace it.
·    Social media is not a trend.  For several years now, there have been sessions at all manner of professional development conferences related to social media.  SLA 2012 was no different.  Social media, whether you personally engage or not, is not going away.  And if you don’t believe me, check out the twitter stream #slachicago from the past week.  Or check LinkedIn updates or Facebook statuses.   Like it or not, if you don’t yet have a strategy to deal with it, get one.  There may even be an app for that.
Roles are changing, responsibilities may be increasing, and the data sources are becoming more layered and hard to control. But, whoa is not (or shouldn’t be!) you.   It is an exciting time for law librarians/information professionals/law firm CI practitioners.